After USC took a 30-point halftime lead against Radford, Gamecocks men’s basketball coach Darrin Horn took the opportunity to play some of his subs and work on different defensive schemes.
So in a 85-56 rout of Radford (2-1) on Friday at Colonial Life Arena, the high scorer for USC (2-1) was Stephen Spinella, a sophomore who scored 39 points last season.
All 11 active Gamecocks scored at least four points and played at least 13 minutes. Only starting point guard Bruce Ellington played more than 20 minutes. The bench produced 39 points.
Horn was not afraid to pull his starters. A little more than a minute into the second half, the subs entered en masse after the USC starters missed three shots and committed a turnover, which allowed Radford to score four quick points.
“It’s great to have a bench; I’m really enjoying it,” Horn said. “For the sake of my voice, I don’t have to scream and holler as much. I can just take them out. For some reason, the bench speaks more loudly than a coach does.”
Spinella followed a career-high 10-point night against No. 2 Michigan State on Tuesday with 15 points and five rebounds vs. Radford.
His best scoring game last season was seven points at Auburn. On Friday, the 6-foot-4 guard sank three of four 3-point attempts after hitting a pair of treys against the Spartans.
“I think he is playing with a lot of confidence,” Horn said. “He’s doing the things when we recruited him that we thought he could do. We knew he was a good scorer, we knew he was athletic.”
Horn said Spinella’s scoring took off after he grabbed some rebounds and ran the floor.
“With the point guards we have if the wings will get out and run, they’re going to get some opportunities to get open shots,” Horn said.
Spinella said he simply is following the coach’s orders to do more of the little things with defense and rebounding and not concentrate solely on scoring.
Still, Spinella was excited to find a groove offensively. After his last basket, the New Jersey native wagged his tongue while holding up three fingers on each hand.
Three other Gamecocks scored in double figures: forward Lakeem Jackson and guards Ellington and Brian Richardson.
Both teams were sloppy in the first eight minutes, when USC took a lead 10-6. The Gamecocks were 3-for-17 shooting, and Radford committed eight turnovers during that span.
USC came alive after a timeout, with Spinella and Richardson scoring five each and the defense causing another four turnovers to spur a 21-8 run over the next five minutes that put the game out of reach.
“The pressure started to pay off, and we knocked down a couple of easy ones,” Horn said.
Radford outscored USC 37-36 in the second half, but Horn said the Gamecocks did not pressure the Highlanders as much so the team could work on half-court and zone defense. Radford, a recent Big South power that is rebuilding after losing four starters, came to Columbia with two home wins over Division III teams.
The Gamecocks were looking to build on their momentum from an 82-73 loss at Michigan State on Tuesday, in which they outrebounded the Spartans — a team that has led the nation in that category each of the past two seasons.
On Friday, USC won the battle of the boards for the third consecutive game, 51-34. Forward Damontre Harris grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds.
The Gamecocks are averaging 46 rebounds this year after nabbing 35 a game last season. USC is outrebounding teams by an average of nine boards a game.
Percentages: FG ..339, FT ..591. 3-Point Goals: 5-15, .333 (Faulkner 1-4, J. Smith 1-3, Sonmez 1-3, Mitchell 0-1, B. Smith 2-4). Team Rebounds: 4. Blocked Shots: 2 (Faulkner 1, Curry 1). Turnovers: 20 (Spagnolo 3, Edwards 1, Faulkner 2, J. Smith 4, Sonmez 5, B. Smith 4, Curry 1). Steals: 6 (Edwards 2, J. Smith 1, Robinson 1, B. Smith 1, Curry 1). Technical Fouls: None.
Percentages: FG ..420, FT ..696. 3-Point Goals: 11-31, .355 (Cooke 0-1, Jackson 0-1, Muldrow 1-2, Richardson 3-8, Ellington 2-4, Spinella 3-4, Smith 1-3, Galloway 1-6, Slawson 0-1). Team Rebounds: 3. Blocked Shots: 8 (Muldrow 3, Richarsdon 1, Jefferson 2, Harris 2). Turnovers: 14 (Cooke 1, Jackson 2, Muldrow 1, Ellington 3, Spinella 1, Smith 2, Galloway 1, Harris 2, Jefferson 1). Steals: 9 (Jackson 2, Muldrow 2, Richardson 2, Ellington 1, Galloway 1, Slawson 1). Technical Fouls: None.
Att.: 10,017. Officials: Tom Eades, Lee Cassell, Tim Gattis.